TGA Wheelchair Powerpacks aiding a disabled passenger and ground crew member at Glasgow Prestwick Airport

The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) has been working closely with campaigner Chris Wood, the Queen Elizabeth Foundation’s Graham Race and a number of airlines to help find solutions to the difficulties faced by those with mobility or disability needs when travelling by plane.

Working towards the goal of allowing powered wheelchair users to one day be able to drive onto a plane and remain in their chair for an entire flight, Chris Wood, who has two disabled children, campaigns for improved travel for passengers.

Chris said: “This is an aspiration to have seamless travel for me and my family so that one day we will not have to transfer out of our chairs and we will board like any other passenger.”

With a number of recent headline news stories bringing attention to the challenges faced by disabled flyers, the government has started to consider new measures to improve air travel for disabled passengers.

The measures include a limit on the time passengers wait for assistance boarding and disembarking, quicker reunions with their wheelchairs, the creation of disabled toilets on planes and possibly the removal of seats to allow wheelchairs to be used in cabins.

The topic of improving the experience of disabled flyers is one also being addressed by the industry, with the BHTA hosting its inaugural Wheelchair Working Group meeting at Sunrise Medical this March.

The meeting, which brought together a number of companies, organisations and consultants in the industry, examined how the mobility and healthcare sector can work closer with the airline industry to find solutions to these issues.

Involved in the meeting were manufacturers and retailer including Unwin Safety, Q’Straint, Proactive Mobility, Pride Healthcare, Advanced Concept Vehicles, TGA Mobility, Bartrams Mobility and RGK Wheelchairs.

Steve Perry, Marketing and Communications Manager who is the BHTA lead on the project, told THIIS: “The meeting was a great opportunity to bring the industry together and find ways to tackle the problems faced by disabled flyers. The next step is the Heathrow Airport Action Group meeting at the end of April, with us working towards an industry symposium to bring all aviation partners together by the second half of this year.”

Additionally, the BHTA is working with Chris and Graham Race of the Queen Elizabeth Foundation to produce an information document called Get Wise to Flying with a Disability.

The leaflet aims to provide guidance and useful web links to assist consumers travelling via plane, helping to improve the experience throughout their journey.

Steve Perry added: “We accept people with powered wheelchairs can travel by taxi, train and bus, so the next logical step is by air. We understand there are many challenges ahead and will need the help and assistance of the airline industry to work with us over the next five to 10 years if we are to make this a reality.

“There are many things we can do to improve the travelling experience of people in wheelchairs and other ageing issues in airports today and since talking with other parties about our aims, the project has received a positive response.”

The Trade Association is also requesting for anyone with additional information or advice which could be useful to the initiative to contact steve.perry@bhta.com.

The latest Get wise to flying with a disability leaflet can be found HERE

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